ND doctor accused of drugging wife withdraws pleasFARGO, N.D. (AP) — A Fargo surgeon accused of drugging his wife with a powerful anesthetic and sexually assaulting her on numerous occasions has backed out of a plea deal and is likely headed to trial in August.
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A Fargo surgeon accused of drugging his wife with a powerful anesthetic and sexually assaulting her on numerous occasions has backed out of a plea deal and is likely headed to trial in August.
Dr. Jon Norberg is accused of having sex with Dr. Alonna Norberg after giving her propofol, a medication that gained notoriety during the trial against the doctor who treated pop star Michael Jackson. Jon Norberg allegedly gave Alonna Norberg the drug more than 30 times over 18 months.
The Associated Press typically does not identify victims of sex crimes, but Alonna has spoken publicly, once to deny claims by her husband that she agreed to the medication as part of treatment for a debilitating disease.
Jon Norberg had entered Alford pleas in January to charges of felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor sexual assault. An Alford plea does not admit wrongdoing but acknowledges there's enough evidence for a conviction.
Norberg said he changed his mind when he found out the pleas could hurt him in a pending divorce case. He claimed original defense attorney John Goff told him the opposite.
In addition to allowing Norberg to withdraw his pleas, Judge Douglas Herman on Thursday approved Goff's motion to withdraw as attorney. Norberg is now being represented by West Fargo's Bob Hoy, one of the lawyers for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. in North Dakota's first federal death penalty case.
Hoy declined comment afterward. Norberg read from a prepared statement.
“I'm glad that the court has decided to let me withdraw my plea,” Norberg said. "If the state's attorney chooses to move forward with this case, I will use my day in court to prove my innocence and end this nightmare which has been created for me and my children.
“Hopefully this can be accomplished quickly so that I can be reunited with my children and resume my practice and begin caring for patients again.”
Norberg now faces an Aug. 28 trial on the two original felony charges of gross sexual imposition and reckless endangerment, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. Cass County prosecutor Gary Euren said he doesn't expect another plea arrangement.
“I'm confident we'll be able to prove this to a jury,” he said outside the courtroom.
The divorce case is scheduled for Sept. 10.
Herman denied a request by Hoy Thursday to rescind a restraining order prohibiting Norberg from coming within 300 yards of his wife. That has prevented Norberg from attending his children's events, such as soccer games and dance recitals, Hoy said. Norberg had hoped to attend another family event on Thursday night.
“It's my daughter's first communion,” Norberg said before leaving the courthouse. “And if she would agree to unsupervised visitation we could have that as well, but she's not agreeing to that. And I think it's a travesty that I can't be there to participate in my kids’ events.”